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Putin's Gambit: Why I Voted to Impeach The President

December 20, 2019
Op-Ed and Letters

This Op-Ed originally appeared in the Hartford Courant.

The impeachment of Donald J. Trump has been brought on by the actions of the president himself. In the aftermath of the impeachment vote on Wednesday, we should reflect on how we got to this point.

The president took two unconstitutional actions: First, he directly solicited a foreign government to gather information on his political opponent. Second, and more troubling, he chose to obstruct a co-equal branch of government from performing its Constitutional responsibilities of oversight and review — even though he had the ability to correct the record, clear his name and offer explanation for his actions. He did so by ignoring Congressional subpoenas for witnesses and documents.

President Trump further sought to promote a false narrative that it was Ukraine, and not Russia, that interfered with the elections in 2016.

This was all brought to light by a whistleblower whose complaint the Trump-appointed inspector general of the intelligence community called “urgent and credible.” Brave men and women came forward during the impeachment inquiry to provide evidence that the president jeopardized our national security by withholding military aid to Ukraine.

The impeachment vote puts Russia on notice: Don’t interfere with our elections. Russia tried to divide the country in 2016. Some would say they succeeded, but the hard truth is they can only succeed if America turns a blind eye to the rule of law. If the House of Representatives had ignored the evidence, Putin would have achieved his goals.

The Mueller Report found no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government, but the intelligence community and the report found there was interference. The Russian intelligence operation and the KGB are very sophisticated and as demonstrated can co-opt elections and manipulate them. Their goal? Divide a nation against itself. As President Abraham Lincoln noted, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

The Russians interfered in 2016 and will do so again in 2020 unless we act. The House has passed three election security bills that the Senate has refused to take up. Additionally, President Trump’s overreach has placed the nation in a state of ongoing paralysis. If the House of Representatives did not stand against this abuse of power, we would be condoning and encouraging Russian interference.

Some Republicans have excused the president’s behavior by saying, “Donald Trump isn’t a politician, he’s a businessman. This is Trump being Trump, this is how he’s used to doing business.”

That may be true, but he is still the president of United States, and in a constitutional democracy, no one, including Donald Trump, is above the law.

I realize there are people who feel differently than I do on impeachment, but to do nothing, to take no vote, is condoning behavior that disregards our Constitution. Putin is still trying to interfere. As we move forward, we must stand united as a Congress in defending our democracy, including holding accountable a president who is in denial of his actions.

For a democracy to work, it requires a system of checks and balances. The president takes an oath of allegiance to the United States Constitution; there are no exceptions for the art of the deal.

Democrat John B. Larson represents Connecticut’s 1st District in the U.S. House of Representatives.